How Different-Aged Children Respond to Divorce

How Different-Aged Children Respond to DivorceJust as no two divorces are exactly the same, no two children will react to their parent’s divorce in identical ways. A child who already has emotional resiliency is more likely to handle the divorce in a healthy manner. Conversely, emotionally fragile children may be prone to outbursts and bad behavior. Predicting how your child will react to your divorce is difficult because he or she may have never faced an event as traumatic as this. Age can be the best predictor because children tend to develop their maturity and understanding at similar ages.

Age 2 and Younger

Infants and toddlers are least likely to carry traumatic memories of their parents’ divorce. Infants are too young to have vivid memories of their parents. Toddlers start to form some memories but have no understanding of marriage and divorce. Though they do not know what divorce is, infants and toddlers do notice the absence of one of the parents. The detachment affects them on an emotional level. Toddlers may regress in their behaviors.

Ages 3 to 6

Children in preschool to early elementary school are more vulnerable to post-divorce trauma than when they were younger. They still do not understand what divorce is, but they know what is happening. Their parents were fighting, and now one parent does not live with them anymore. Because children at this age are egocentric, they will likely blame themselves for the divorce. As a result, they can become depressed, angry and more attached to their parents.

Age 7 to Pre-Teen

By the time they are in middle to late elementary school, children are more likely to understand what divorce is. However, they likely do not understand why their parents divorced. They are still egocentric enough to believe they are responsible for the divorce. When they reach their pre-teen years, they may start to place blame on one or both parents.


Teens should have a solid understanding of divorce and how they are not the ones that cause it. However, the absence of one parent can still be traumatic and depressing. Knowing that their parents chose to divorce, teens may blame their parents for breaking up the family and become angry and bitter.

Emotional Adjustment

Children of all ages feel depression and loss after their parents’ divorce. It is the parents’ responsibility to help their children by:

  • Not fighting in front of them;
  • Not speaking badly about the other parent when alone with them; and
  • Maintaining a strong relationship with the children.

A Kane County divorce attorney at the Law Office of Martoccio & Martoccio can help you obtain an allocation of parental responsibilities that will allow you to support your children after divorce. To schedule a free consultation, call 331-588-6611.


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